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being often reproved, hardeneth his neck, shall-be destroyed without remedy:There is no reversion of the decree when once executed ; there is no redemption for the soul when onee damned. The purpose of the Eternal, like an impassible gulph, separates heaven and hell, “ so that they who would pass from” the former to the latter cannot : Was it possible for holy angels or men to look down from their mansions in glory and pity the implacable enemy of God, they could not pass over to relieve him, and the wretched inhabitants of hell, « bound hand and foot, cannot pass” from thence to heaven.-You cannot mention to me a condition in this world which is altogether desperate. The man who has squandered his fortune may possibly regain it by industry, and economy; he who has lost his good name by violence or fraud may retrieve it by a course of upright, virtuous conduct ; even the man who has forfeited his life to civil justice may find an everlasting refuge hy making his peace with God through the mediation of Jesus ; but damnation, if you will allow the expression, is a disease without a cure; it is ruin without any conceivable relief or remedy.-Does the sinner survey the region of hell around him? be finds none that either can or would pity him; there is no tender eye to drop a tear over his misery, nor soothing voice to impart consolation into his ears. Like the prodigal in the parable, he“ begins to be in want and no
man gives unto him." Does he lift up his eyes towards heaven, and ask the sympathy of his former acquaintances or friends now in bliss ? they would reply to him as Abrahamto the rich man,“son, remember that thous in thy life time receivedst thy good things, but now thou art tormented without abatement or end." Does he look for mercy to God the Judge ofall, or Jesus the Mediator?' they would only “laugh at his calamity,” and frown him deeper into the flames.“ Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction froin the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of bis power.”
Why cumbereth it the ground ?" The word we translate “cumbereih” can scarcely be expressed in its full meaning. It does not signify merely to stand useless and unprofitable, or to fill up the place on which another might grow to the advantage of the proprietor, but it properly signifies" to destroy or make the ground of no effect;" the inspired evangelist probably intended to represent it as absorbing the juices of the earth, and by a kind of deadly influence blasting the fruit of the neighboring trees. No man can be considered a mere blank in the visible church; the loose, carnal professor is not only useless, but pernicious; he is not only unprofitable to God, by failing to answer the end of his creation and redemption, but is actually a reproach and injury to his cause upon earth ; his irregular walk and conversation prove a stumbling block to the
righteous, and imbolden others in iniquity. The professor of religion, who doth not abound “with the fruits of righteousness to the glory and praise of God," is a real dishonor by his barrenness; as we conclude that there must be a defect either in the soil or climate, or some other circumstance, when the tree stands from season to season without bearing any fruit.
“ And he answering said, Iord, let it alone this year also.” These words express the unfeigned grief of the “ vine-dresser" upon hearing the doom that was denounced against this tree, and his intercession that it might be spared for another experiment. “Let it alone;" overlook the circumstance of its barrenness ; afford it a spot in thy vineyard until another season of bearing ; peradventure it will disappoint thy fears and reward thy patience with abundant fruit. The faithful shepherd is peculiarly anxious for the welfare of his flock; a concern for the interest of his master constrains him to watch with unwearied care that none of them should perish ; a humane physician feels for the patient under his direction; he sympathizes with him in distress, and uses every probable means for restoring him to bealth; the bowels of a tender mother move towards a beloved child in jeopardy of its life ; how eagerly would she snatch it from the brink of some fathomless gulph or the fury of a devouring frame ; but incomparably more anxious is the humane, conscientious
pastor for the salvation of souls committed to his care.
« He watches over them" not only as “one who must give account” ta God for his fidelity, but as one who really pities their delusion, and secretly recoils at the thought of their destruction.--With unfeigned sincerity he can appropriate the language of the prophet, “I have not desired the evil day thou knowest. The priests, the ministers of the Lord" are commanded “ to weep between the poreh and the altar, and say, spare my people, O Lord, and give not thine heritage to reproach.”
« Till I shall dig around it and dung it.' Till I examine its roots to discover what can be the particular cause of its defect, and try other methods for restoring it to fruitfulness. The vine-dresser was willing to persevere year after year in cultivating this tree, and try experiment after experiment to see if it could not be rendered profitable to the husbandman. The ambassador of Jesus will “ reprove and rebuke and exhort with all long-suffering and doctrine.” Former disappointments will only excite him to greater diligence and importunity in time to come. Although “ the bones in the valley are many and very dry,” yet he will continue to“ prophecy;" he will earnestly expostulate, “Oye dry bones, hear the word of the Lord,” encouraged by a PERADVENTURE that the breath may yet enter and they become spiritually alive. "I endure all things for the elect's sake that they may ob. tain salvation which is in Christ Jesus with everlasting glory.” No fatigue, no reproach, or poverty is regarded, while there l'emains a probability, even a possibility that they may repent and be saved. When he contemplates the immense value of the human soul; when he realizes its inconceivable capacity of happiness in the enjoyment of Jehovah, or misery under the pressure of his wrath ; when he looks forward in imagination through the lapse of myriads of ages and views it as either approaching nearer to God in a perfection of bliss, or sinking deeper in the gulph of perdition, when these things are duly realized, the pastor will be ready to exclaim of each hearer, “how shall I give thee up ?” “ How shall I cease to instruct and exhort and admonish? I cannot deliver thee up to thy present ignorance, or obstinacy, or sensuality with the belief that thou shouldst fall a prey to the second death and the damnation of hell. « I could wish that myself were accursed* from Christ for
* Few passages of scripture are attended with more difficulty than this, and there are few in the explication of which the ingenuity of the learned lias been more exercised. But amidst the variety ofopinion entertained by commentators, none appears more simple in itself, nor more agreeable to the analogy of faith than that of the profound Dr. Waterland.---The Greek preposition which is generally rendered from, he translates after the example of Christ. The meaning of the apostle, in wishing himself ac; cursed from Christ, appears evidently to be the following: “I could cheerfully be considered the ci off-scouring of all things :" I could submit to any reproach or torture which the rage of persecution might invent or inflict; nay, in conformity to the examble of my adorable Lord, I am ready to offer up my body to the ignominious, agonizing death of the cross could I only be the instrument of salvation to my brethren the Jews; could I only res.